Up and coming authors in 1895

William-Pett-RidgeFound in The Album for August 19th, 1895, are these encouraging words for aspiring fiction writers:-

Let no boy or girl, ambitious of literary fame, fear nowadays that they will be denied a hearing. The one thing necessary is merit—something to say and the power to say it. Granted so much, and industry, success is certain.

Take the case of two young men who have fought their way into success, and with whose careers I happen to be familiar. They are Mr W Pett Ridge (above) and Mr H. G. Wells. Neither had any influence; neither, when they began to write, had friends in the literary world; neither had the advantage of a ‘Varsity education; and yet these two young men have six books between them on the eve of publication. Moreover, the stories and articles and dialogue that make up these books having already appeared in serial form, these authors have already made incomes out of them which barristers or bank-clerks of the same age would consider exceedingly handsome.

How was it done? Just by choosing fresh subjects, by looking at those subjects with fresh eyes, and by having the gumption to know what journals those subjects would suit. Mr Pett Ridge is a London born and bred, and a Londoner who was blessed by nature with a most observant eye, great patience, and quite an abnormal sense of humour…Hardly a day passes but the writes a short story or a dialogue and hardly a night passes but his shrewd brown eyes peer into some corner of the London he knows as well as Mr Gladstone knows Downing Street…

Mr H.G.Wells, the other bookman, has made his reputation in an incredibly short time. Two years ago he sent an article to the Pall Mall Gazette. Its mordaunt humour, keen observation, and gay inconsequentiality suited the style of the paper to a T, and for a couple of years Mr Wells probably contributed more to the Pall Mall Gazette than any outside contributor… 

Though they began with a similar degree of success, the careers of William Pett Ridge ( 1859 – 1930) and Herbert Wells, who were friends, could hardly have been more contrasting. While Wells, with a string of best-sellers in the genre, is now regarded as the father of British Sci Fi, Ridge, despite his authorship of over sixty short story collections and novels, four of which were made into films, is almost unknown today. At the height of his popularity he was seen as the natural successor of Dickens, though by the Jazz Age most thought his work old fashioned. Personally, I would recommend, for its lively pen portraits of working class characters,his London Types(1926). [R.M.Healey]



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